Monday, March 3, 2008

Cornell Concealed Carry

In response to The Cornell Daily Sun’s Tony Manfred 3/3/08 column and the concealed carry issue

Thus far in the gun debate I’ve heard a lot of crackpot opinions go flying—that most of them center on name-callling doesn’t help much. That the more cracked seem to be pro-concealed carry is telling. Tony Manfred’s column, however, was neither cracked nor idiotic. I am, however, surprised that such a passable column would’ve missed what is really the most important aspect of concealed carry.

What is the situation that everyone leaps to consider in this issue? The one in which we’re in the lobby of Goldwin Smith between classes, and some nutcase pulls a gun and starts mowing down English majors and Temple of Zeus enthusiasts. Each camp then posits a scenario. Anti-concealed carry folks expect most people to run, some to fall injured, and some to die. Pro-concealed carry folks think that everyone else will pull a gun and shoot down the nutcase, saving the day and averting tragedy. What nobody is arguing is that in every scenario, people would die. Manfred says in his column that fewer people will probably die if there are fewer fired bullets (i.e. fewer guns). This is an admirable piece of logic—friendly fire, the fire of gun-toting non-nutcases firing to try to protect themselves and their peers, would almost certainly injure more people than the nutcase.

That’s really why we’re so upset, isn’t it? That’s why the Cornell Republicans are calling for armed students, and that’s why people like Manfred are speaking out strongly against it, isn’t it? We’re all scared. We don’t want to die, and we don’t want any of our friends or classmates to die. We’re scared. And the pro-gun, pro-concealed carry people are convinced that carrying a hidden gun will help keep them alive.

So far, I’ve recapped the issue. But what I haven’t seen yet is someone who takes the issue to its obvious next step. Let’s go back to that nightmare scene—someone has pulled a gun while you’re on your way to get coffee or a scone. It won’t necessarily be a single student, and it won’t even be someone who even seems like “the type”. It will be as bewildering as it will be terrifying. Imagine another student carrying a concealed gun pulling his gun and shooting the kid with the gun. Someone else didn’t notice the first gunman, and thinks the second gun-toting-guy is the nutcase, or maybe his pal, so she opens fire on him. He shoots back, thinking she’s one of the nutcases (what else would he think)…this will continue…until, what?

In a school shooting, there won’t be uniforms, and there won’t be any way to tell who is what. Hysteria and panic mixed with guns and more hysteria does not make anyone safer—it makes a shootout, something that won’t stop until everyone is badly hurt or dead. The way to protect ourselves is not to bring more of the thing we fear to campus. There is no sure way to protect ourselves, and that is why we’re all so scared, because if we’re unarmed, it will be hell, and if we are armed, it will be much, much worse.


Ariel said...

I think this is an unlikely scenario.

Even if it were legal, few students would carry guns, so this sort of chain reaction is implausible.

Also -- All our experience of crisis situations is that if individual A pulls out a gun and starts shooting, there's a fairly long lag before people react. So when B engages A, people will not mistake B for the original villain. Also, shooting A, once, is easily distinguished from a general rampage.

My sense is that allowing concealed-carry on most campuses is stupid, since the actual need for guns on campus is very low and so mistaken use will swamp legit. However, there probably are universities where the calculation is quite different and students do need guns. Yale comes to mind.

Chris said...

The shootout scenario might be unlikely, but we thought that a student showing up at a school and blowing people away was unlikely, too, so unlikely that the vast majority of schools didn't have methods in place to deal with such a situation. Sadly, it's not as unlikely as we thought... Columbine and Virginia Tech come to mind, but there are far too many others. One is too many.

I can't speak as to whether Cornell students are more or less likely to attack a gun-toting felon, but the idea of having an unknown number of guns floating around campus freaks the hell out of me. For pete's sake, if you're going to bring legal guns to campus, give them to the uniformed men and women who are in charge of providing security to the campus. The security guards, ex-cops, and public safety officers who deal with keeping some kind of lid on the chaos that college students are so good at creating. The ones who work with the police when necessary and who either have, have had, or can more easily get firearms training than a bunch of students.

If I had to choose between letting students on my campus carry concealed weapons, and letting the uniformed, trained individuals who have 10 to 20 years more life experience than a bunch of testosterone-charged, scared, wild college kids, I know what I'd pick.

Katherine Crocker said...

Good point, Chris. I still think a shootout scenario is possible, but you're right, I would much rather have trained, armed guards than an unknown quantity of scared + guns.

Ariel said...

How many security guards etc are there on campus, other than the CUPD? I don't remember there being any.

Katherine Crocker said...

None that I'm aware of. I think it's more of an hypothetical situation. I would be against armed guards, because I think it would perpetuate violence, but if i've got to choose between armed guards and armed students, I choose the former.